Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committee may cease operations due to financial problems

The Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committee, one of Russia's leading human rights organizations, may close its office in Moscow and stop operations due to financial problems.

"We have debts for rent and housing and utilities from 2010. We just don't have money," Valentina Melnikova, secretary of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committee, told Interfax on Friday.

'If we don't pay at least part of the money before December 1, the electricity and telephone will be cut off. It will become impossible to work. Now it's a reality. We have sought help from various foundations, but we haven't been able to find support. Our colleagues can't help us, they don't have money either," Melnikova said.

The Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committee has fought for the rights of military men since 1989. On November 6, Melnikova expressed regret about Anatoly Serdyukov's resignation from the post of defense minister and said she is concerned the reforms he has begun will now be stopped.

Melnikova said the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committee lost its last hope to find money to pay the rent for its office and utilities services after the "soldiers' mothers" were denied presidential grants provided by the state for developing the civil sector.

Melnikova said the "soldiers' mothers" only received one grant from the Russian authorities (a grant from the Moscow government in 1992) and most of its grants have come from the West (the Ford Foundation, and Norwegian and German foundations, Melnikova said.

"Our everyday work is to help soldiers and the parents who contact us. There was a time when we had meetings in the streets. However, it will be impossible to work with soldiers and their parents in homes," Melnikova said.

On July 21, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the federal law On Changes to Some Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Governing the Activities of NGOs Fulfilling the Functions of Foreign Agents. The document requires all NGOs receiving Western grants to register with the Justice Ministry as "foreign agents."

The leading Russian NGOs, including Memorial, Golos, For Human Rights, and the Moscow Helsinki Group, said they will boycott this law.

According to previous reports, Russia notified the U.S. that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) operations should be halted beginning on October 1. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that decision was made because the U.S. agency was involved in activities other than the humanitarian activities stated in its documents.

On October 9, the Foreign Ministry press and information department reported that UNICEF is required to complete all remaining projects in Russia by December 31, 2012. "Due to the increase of the economic and donor potential of the Russian Federation, the decision was made in September 2009 to gradually close down representations of UN programs and funds in Russia and transfer all relations into the realm of mutually profitable partnership," the ministry said.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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